Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beauty Ideals, Preferences And The Ugly

"What's ugly to you? What do you consider ugly?" he asked.

I pondered out loud and asked for clarification--did he mean what physical traits I found ugly? What makes a person ugly?

I ended up answering the question, first, by naming the traits and behaviors I strongly dislike, and second, I didn't have particular physical traits I could list as being ugly. It's a case of I know it when I see it.

The conversation progressed to beauty ideals, perfection and preferences. What "they" want us to believe is perfection--a certain height, 2 toned arms, 2 long but too curvy legs, porcelain skin--isn't preferred by everyone. It exists but that doesn't make it the gold standard. I was contacted a few days ago by The Dualism because they thought I'd be interested in their art concept and philosophy after they learned about my book. Without beauty would there be ugliness? They were right. In art, I tend to be drawn to the imperfect. I love images that challenge the viewer or even make them uncomfortable. An image that offers a glimpse into someone's life or "tells a secret". As I clicked around their website, I knew I'd keep in contact with them. There was also a nude that reminded me of my own.

We continued. He delicately probed with his questions. We spoke about preferences. We all have them. When someone says, "You're not my type", it could be a personality thing but also an aesthetic. There are people that we find visually unappealing. We date people we're attracted to. We choose our types (friends, lovers) based on preferences. And consider casting calls. If you check casting calls for auditions in NYC, you'll see they're always looking for a type, someone who has "the look" they're after. Gabourey Sidibe was cast in the role of Precious because of the way she looked. I'll never be a runway model until those standards, their preferences change. Until that happens, I lose no sleep over it. caught slack for saying thousands of new members that were accepted onto the website as a result of hacker were too ugly, or as founder and managing director Greg Hodge put it "many of whom were no oil painting". Those potential daters would normally have been voted "Absolutely Not" by the members of the website. Harsh? Perhaps. But not wrong or illegal. is even offering counseling for the uglies that were rejected. Talk about adding insult to injury. Side note: Peep the crotch on the Asian girl on the homepage. Wonder what she does with that snake...

Is it wrong to express your preferences? We have preferences in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to. We also have preferences in people we associate with. But when we have to deal with rejection, insecurities and past traumas that's when things get sticky. Grant it, there are people who don't care what other people think about them. Yet the majority of people are happier when they are accepted, praised, preferred.

To the photographer I had this discussion with, beauty isn't silicone breasts, porcelain skin, coifed hair. He finds the "perfect of imperfection" beautiful. He prefers woman with a "fuck you, I'm gonna be me" attitude. I agreed that confidence can make someone more attractive to me. To me sexy isn't only physical, it's an energy. My physical dating/sexual preference is biological/anatomical males. No developed mammary glands, a penis, testicles (1 or 2). In my experience, each time I've said I'm not attracted to a type, I meet someone of that type I'm attracted to. They challenge my ideals of beauty.

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  1. I really liked this post, and I've written and re-written a bunch of different responses. So I guess I should go with honesty.

    This subject is a huge internal dilemma for me. I'm not an attractive girl - I know this. I accept other people's preferences because it's not fair (or rational) to force people to like you or be attracted to you.

    At times I feel that I am not allowed to have preferences because of the way I look. I'm not anyone's type; rarely do people find themselves attracted to me, and have spent the better part of my life single because of both overt and tacit rejections of me. But I think that's okay. No matter my opinion of myself, there will always be people who don't like the way I look physically, or the more abstract concept of how I carry myself.

    My goal in life isn't to convince myself that I'm beautiful - because I'm not. I know this. My goal is to accept that the way I look probably doesn't match up with other people's preferences for women, and that that's okay. That my being rejected doesn't make me less of a human. It's okay that I'm not pretty. It's okay if no one likes me because of that. It's not about finding someone who does want to be with me.

    It's about accepting that the way I look isn't beautiful or good-looking or anything conventional and nice. And that the world doesn't end because of it.

  2. It pains me to read that you believe you're not beautiful. I hope you're not feeding into certain societal 'standards' or norms. You say your goal is to accept that the way you look doesn't match other people's preferences for women. But remember not everyone has the same preferences. Plus self-acceptance-cum-self-love translates into "beauty" or to relate it to what you wrote, attractiveness to others. You mentioned the way you carry yourself. Carrying around the burden of being the ugly duckling will surely affect the way energy you give off to people.

    I know there's more for me to say; I'll have to come back to this~


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